dinsdag, augustus 17, 2004

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill

The New Standard: Media blackout in Najaf enforced at rifle-point, journalists evicted

"Officers arrested an Iraqi reporter, Mohammad Kazem, during a live rooftop broadcast for Iranian state television, Al-Alam, after they fired warning shots into the air. The Daily Telegraph reports that as night fell and the deadline for the eviction order passed, bullets were fired at the roof of the hotel, the known site from which journalists frequently file their reports."

Elsewhere in the latest New Standard, an independent online newspaper set up by the good folks at ZNet, reports note with dismay the banning of Al-Jazeera from Iraq, as well as the disconcerting developments in the reconstituted Iraqi Information Ministry, which, natch, has been reorganised with a different name but most of the same happy-fun-time kids that ran the place under Saddam:

"The closing comes two weeks after top officials in Allawi’s government threatened to shut down Al Jazeera and other regional media outlets if they continued to broadcast messages by extremist militants or statements that are highly critical of the government.

"Such restrictions appear to be the work of a newly established "Higher Media Commission," which Allawi reportedly set up to monitor and regulate media content.

"According to the Financial Times, Ibrahim Janabi, the man appointed by Allawi to head the commission, announced on July 26 that the panel would impose content restrictions on both print and broadcast journalists. The restrictions, to be called "red lines," would include a ban on printing or broadcasting unwarranted criticism of Allawi himself.

"By creating the new commission, Allawi also appears to be reviving Saddam’s old Ministry of Information, which strictly controlled the Iraqi press for decades. Although Bremer dissolved the ministry last year, officials with the Higher Media Commission will soon relocate to the old Ministry of Information offices, which are being refurbished.

"Other factors, including Janabi’s own background, suggest that the interim government favors a centralized, state-run media system that has little, if any, room for dissidents.

"Like Allawi, Janabi was for many years a Ba’ath Party member. He also worked as an overseas intelligence officer for Saddam Hussein. According to a 2003 article in the New York Review of Books, Janabi served Saddam as an undercover agent in London during the 1980s, monitoring the dictator’s political opponents there.

"In the 1990s, Janabi defected and joined Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord (INA), an exile group with close ties to the CIA and British intelligence services."

Let freedom ring.